I think the Luddite is right

Ron PaulSpending as much time as I do online, I often forget that most people do not, and that the distribution of political opinions of other members of the general “online community” does not necessarily correspond to those of the much broader “real world.”

In particular, I’ve observed the disproportionate number of libertarians (and Libertarians) online. There are many ways in which I agree with libertarian views, especially to the extent of individual freedoms, inasmuch as if what you’re doing doesn’t hurt anyone else, the government shouldn’t be telling you not to do it. (However, I think the libertarian view often struggles with looking beyond the end of one’s nose regarding the impact of individual actions.)

And so, in this election year, we come to Ron Paul.

Judging by the range of discourse you’ll find on a lot of websites, you’d think Ron Paul has secured 98% of the Republican vote and probably about 60% of the Democratic vote as well. And, based solely on opinions on the issues (as indicated here), even I agree with Ron Paul a lot more than I do with any of the other Republicans. (I have to wonder how many online libertarians really agree with Ron Paul on evolution, though… but I am guessing most of his tech-minded supporters don’t know he doesn’t believe in it.) But the issues don’t tell the whole story, as Wired’s blogger Tony Long (a.k.a. “The Luddite”) explained well in his recent post:

He almost sounds rational. But he’s not.

Like all absolutists — and make no mistake, libertarianism is absolutism as surely as atheism is faith — Paul is ill suited for this particular job. He’s running for president of the United States, remember, not for a seat in some gerrymandered Texas congressional district. If elected, he would be leading the most powerful nation on earth, one whose every action has repercussions in every corner of the world.

The biggest problem I have with libertarianism is its exaltation of absolute, Ayn Rand-esque individualism. Again, the Luddite:

There are 300 million of us now, not 30 million, and we can’t all go running around unsupervised. This is where libertarian ideals get a little unwieldy. Besides, we’re not all John Waynes, saddled up and gazing with flinty eyes across the prairie. Some of us can barely cope. Sometimes, Ron, them dad-gum polecats in Washington jest have to step in and take charge. Dang it all.

And so, we reach the great chasm between my personal beliefs and those of libertarians: individual freedoms are incredibly important, but we don’t all live in our own little, disconnected bubbles. We’re sharing this planet with every other human being (not to mention lots of other species of life — dismiss that if you like, but let’s see how long we can last on our own without them; Soylent Green won’t feed us forever). The things we do affect others, whether we realize it or not, and will continue to do so for generations to come. That’s a heavy responsibility. Perhaps the average online propeller head can dismiss it, but the President of the United States cannot.

More stupid web tricks coming your way…

I realize I’ve been working with PHP for too long when I get an idea like “I wonder exactly how birth rate affects population levels” and the first thing I think of is, “well why don’t I just build a PHP app to figure it out?”

This is the result of such thinking: Population Trajectory Calculator. It’s the newest addition to my Stupid Web Tricks page, and the first that’s not just JavaScript triggering an irritating pop-up.

This is probably just as pointless though, but it was a fun little exercise, and it’s starting to give me more ideas, which is always dangerous. Before long I’ll have built a web-based version of Oregon Trail.

I’m not kidding.

(Well, OK, I hope I am.)

Uhh… wow.

You may be familiar with mashups, but this has to take the cake. It’s a mashup from three music instruction videos.


And just so I don’t seem like a bandwidth hog, the original page in context is here. (Even though I’m being less of a bandwidth hog by linking straight to the video because I’m not forcing you to download three long QuickTime movies simultaneously! But don’t get me wrong; all three are worth watching… as long as you have broadband.)

Very cool idea. Gets a little stale (and not as well-executed) by the end, but still impressive. And of course, Beaver Felton is the guy who sold me my Music Man StingRay 5. (True, I bought it from his shop, not him personally, but I did have direct contact with him personally both by email and on the phone. Not that that makes me cool or anything.)

Reflections on Parenting, After One Week of Experience

It’s 5:30 AM. I’m wide awake, having just endured the most harrowing diaper-changing experience so far in my short career as a parent. It’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned to date….

  • You can never predict when the baby will come, especially when you are convinced that it couldn’t possibly come yet.
  • There’s a reason they call it “labor.”
  • Dads: If you agree to cut the umbilical cord on your new son, just be careful where you angle those big scissors. Leave circumcision to the experts.
  • Once you’ve smelled it, everything smells like baby formula.
  • Try not to ponder the implications of having a McDonald’s restaurant inside a hospital.
  • Babies are neither as fragile nor as durable as they appear.
  • Don’t burp the baby while wearing your favorite shirt. Or sitting on the brand new sofa.
  • Yes, your baby really is the cutest in the world. Just don’t expect everyone else to see it.
  • Try not to envision a dairy farm when your wife is pumping breast milk. At least, if you do, don’t tell her about it.
  • A pack of 80 diapers doesn’t last as long as you’d think.
  • The health insurance industry has an inscrutable logic all its own.
  • Plan for everything to take twice as long as you expect it to. Then it will take approximately twice as long as that.
  • Your physical coordination really is affected by sustained lack of sleep. Keep that in mind when your toes are exposed to large, heavy, moving objects.
  • Having a baby is a good way to instantly enhance your popularity. Don’t let it fool you — it’s not you they’re interested in.
  • There is no way to convey to a non-parent the pure joy you feel at the sight of a stinky, sticky mound of poop in a diaper, after a day and a half without one.
  • Your thoughts at 5:30 AM are neither as lucid nor as profound as they seem.
  • It’s all worth it. And then some.